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"A Trump Christmas Carol," by Roz Kaveney, Laurie Penny, John Scalzi and Jo Walton; Uncanny, December 25, 2016
http://uncannymagazine.com/article/trump-christmas-carol/

A brilliant piece of political fiction, a solid reworking of the ideas of Dickens' classic as the ghosts of 2016 teach the President-elect the true meaning and proper use of political power.



"The Orangery," Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam; Beneath Ceasless Skies, Issue #214, December 8, 2016
http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-orangery/

Using the myths of Apollo and Daphne and Apollo and Dryope as central images, Stufflebeam gives us a powerful look at the responses evoked in women when confronted with men's desire and sense of entitlement to women's labour, bodies and love. When confronted with all the women, including Daphne and Dryope, who have chosen transformation into trees, Apollo asks “Why do you women fear men so much that you would rather be tree than give a kiss?” It's a question answered by this novelette, though perhaps not in any way that one who must ask can understand.



"The Evaluators: To Trade with Aliens, You Must Adapt," N. K. Jemisin; Wired, December 13, 2016
https://www.wired.com/2016/12/nk-jemisin-the-evaluators/

A brilliant and truly terrifying cautionary tale told in modern epistolary style (excerpts from emails, reports and other documents) about the dangers of making assumptions and rushing first contact.



"Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0," Caroline M. Yoachim; Lightspeed, March 2016
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/welcome-to-the-medical-clinic-at-the-interplanetary-relay-station/

Having spent way too much time dealing with medical personnel and institutions lately, this grim little story about the futility of getting any real healthcare from a bureaucratic and underfunded system hit close to home.



"My Grandmother's Bones," S. L. Huang; Daily Science Fiction, August 22, 2016
http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/religious/s-l-huang/my-grandmothers-bones

A short and moving story about generational relationships and cultural changes, seen through a series of funerary behaviours.


"17 Amazing Plot Elements... When You See #11, You'll Be Astounded!," James Beamon; Daily Science Fiction, May 3, 2016
http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/religious/james-beamon/17-amazing-plot-elements-when-you-see-11-youll-be-astounded

An interesting approach to the retelling of a very old tale. Short, but worth reading for the way it's told.



"The Right Sort of Monsters," Kelly Sandoval; Strange Horizons, April 4, 2016
http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/the-right-sort-of-monsters/
Powerful story about need, sacrifice and how humans deal with difference. A strange and alien grove - the Godswalk - appears mysteriously beside a village, leaving most of the inhabitants unable to have children of their own. In the forest are the blood trees, whose flowers produce children in return for human blood, children that are not quite human, but human enough. But when Viette enters the forest to seek a child to fill the void left by a series of miscarriages, she learns that the Godswalk hides deeper secrets than she realised.

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"The Great Silence," Ted Chiang, May 2015, e-flux journal
http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/the-great-silence/

A meditation on sentience, inter-species communication, language, and the consequences of co-existence with other intelligences. From the perspective of a parrot.


"Forestspirit, Forestspirit," Bogi Takács, June 2015,
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/takacs_06_15/

An AI-driven battle machine, survivor of the last war, becomes the guardian of the forest at the instigation of a young boy.


"Folding Beijing," Hao Jingfang (trans. Ken Liu), January/February 2015
http://uncannymagazine.com/article/folding-beijing-2/

This elegant novelette from Hao Jingfang proposes a future China where overpopulation is so severe that the city of Beijing is redesigned and rebuilt so as to fold up and flip over twice in every 48 hour cycle. In the first 24 hours, the part of the city revealed is First Space - the world of the upper class, five million out of a total of 80 million. When First Space folds up and its inhabitants are tucked safely away in a drugged sleep, the city flips over and the next 12 hours belong to Second Space, the middle class, 25 million. After 12 hours, Second Space folds up and Third Space - the home of the working class and the poor - unfolds for another 12 hours. And the cycle repeats.

The protagonist of the story is Lao Dao, a worker in a refuse sorting plant in Third Space, who wants only one thing - to find enough money to educate his adopted daughter so that she can live in a better space. To do so on his own salary would be impossible, so he takes on an illegal commission to carry messages between people in other Spaces.

Through Lao's experiences, Hao delivers a profound critique of class, capital and the exploitation of the workers, while reminding us that the best parts of life are those that stand outside of the economic sphere - love, generosity, joy, simple pleasures, human interaction.


"Liminal Grid," Jaymee Goh, November 2015, Strange Horizons
http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20151109/gohliminalgrid-f.shtml

In a dystopic future Malaysia where government surveillance and control are close to absolute, the rebels of a new generation struggle to escape the confines of a society they hate and fear, and go
"off-grid."


"Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers," Alyssa Wong, October 2015, Nightmare Magazine
http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/hungry-daughters-of-starving-mothers/

A compelling, visceral dark fantasy. Themes of vengeance on misogynist bile-mongers, intergenerational legacies and wounds, and the consequences of not being fully open with those one truly loves. I have to mention the effectiveness of the startlingly perfect use of imagery in this piece.


"Scarecrow," Alyssa Wong, originally published in Black Static, 2014, reprinted January 2015, Tor.com
http://www.tor.com/2015/01/27/scarecrow/

A powerful and moving dark fantasy story about love, self-deception, internalised homophobia, guilt and grief. A young man too afraid, or ashamed, to acknowledge his love for another joins his friends in tormenting his lover, with deadly consequences.


"The Fisher Queen," Alyssa Wong, 2014
http://fu-gen.org/crash/fisherqueen-wong.htm

The daughter of a fisherman discovers hidden truths about, not just her own family, but also about the trade she seeks to follow on her first fishing voyage. A dark story about family secrets and sexual violence.


"By Degrees and Dilatory Time," S. L. Huang, May 2015, Strange Horizons
http://strangehorizons.com/2015/20150518/dilatory-f.shtml

A story about bodily integrity, loss and healing. A young man who has already lost a promising career as a competitive figure skater to a sports injury and knee replacement surgery develops a rare cancer in both eyes and must accept replacement surgery - artificial eyes - in order to survive.

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S. L. Huang's "urban SF" novel Zero Sum Game is one hell of an adrenaline rush, with one of the most unusual anti-hero protagonists I've ever encountered in superpowered math genius mercenary Cas Russell. Seriously, this is great stuff. I had to finish it in one sitting and now I feel compelled to read the next two books in the series.

So... Cas Russell is a mercenary. She works well outside the law, she is ultra deadly with hands, feet, guns, and just about everything else. Her specialty is retrievals - people hire her to bring their stuff back.

But when Cas accepts a job to retrieve Courtney Polk from a drug cartel, her entire life goes to hell in a handbasket. Because nothing about this job is what she thinks it is, not even her own thoughts.

The body count is extreme, and the violence is often graphic. But at the same time, this is a very thoughtful book that addresses questions of agency, free will, morality, and the age-old question of whether the ends ever justify the means. You just don't notice the thinky bits in the middle of all that adrenaline until they smack you in the face.

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